I recently realised, when I like someone, I subconsciously raise them up in my esteem. Filling in the gaps in my knowledge of them with vague beliefs and assumptions.
For example, in talking to a personable acquaintance the other day, they told me they were building their self confidence so that they could teach. I was introduced to them at a dinner about two years ago. At the time and since, I have enjoyed their bright personality and cheerful disposition; reading in self assurance.
Reflecting on my presumption of their strengths, I realised how little I knew of them. Their pedestal and place on it was almost entirely a figment of my imagination.
It should come as no surprise, I am sometimes disappointed by others. I am expecting them to fill the roles of fictitious characters on the journey of my life.
Similarly I read reciprocal admiration into relationships. My importance in the life of another is not as significant as the ideal; tearing my heart, ever so slightly.
As a teenager in the UK, I had a few part time jobs. The first was serving takeaway fish and chips in a timber framed shop with higgledy-piggledy floors, ceilings, windows and doors. It was located in a high street where the buildings appeared to have collided into each other.
The income paid for uniforms, chef’s knives, and books, required for study. Following the start of a two-year sandwich course*, I was informed I needed to get experience working in a more superior hospitality business. I was fortunate in securing the role of banqueting waiter at a half timbered C16th hotel.
The business was purchased by a local hotel group, leading to my first redundancy and redeployment. The new hall porter position was located at a grand C19th mansion, turned hotel and function centre. The group also ran the lido in the town. Each Summer staff had the opportunity of working in the lido kiosk.
As my heritage is more Northern European than Mediterranean, my pasty white limbs would sear to a deep vermilion when flaunted in the sun. In order to protect my fragile ego I opted to succumb to packaged promises of golden to bronzed litheness.
Quelle horreur and indignity I endured exposing the resulting patchy brown reality!
*a training course with alternate periods of formal instruction and practical experience.
Five learnings from my journey of service to others
Beware the drama triangle Take a moment to step back, assess the situation. Are characters from the drama triangle* about to draw me in? I aim to be objective and assist participants to find a way out.
I learned the hard way, taking on the part of Rescuer often led to situations that compromised one of my core values, integrity.
Self limiting practises suck I have often found myself tied up in my own self limiting practises due to making assumptions, skewed perception, self doubt, and misguided self reliance. This led to missed opportunities for me to assist others to develop, poorer quality outcomes and my own burnout.
Fear of failure; bunny in the headlights I cannot overstate the sheer horror and inner trauma of being faced with the threat of not achieving a goal, in my service to another.
The worst was realised by the refusal of a stakeholder to cooperate. This brought forth significant flight or fight responses.
Having clear measures of success, being prepared for resistance and exploring collaboration rather than drawing battle have helped me since.
Being ‘helpful’ or taking over When I first started coaching, I observed myself wanting to jump in to help by taking over. An urge, almost too hard to resist.
What a relief it was to understand the benefits of others’ active participation in decision making, problem solving and learning processes. The person being coached is imbued with freedom during the journey and has ownership of the outcome.
Resilience Resilience to deal with this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. For an emotional soul such as I, it’s important for me to to not take things personally; stick my head in the sand, or become a victim.
Acceptance of the way things are grants permission to move forward.
*Dr Stephen Karpman developed a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict, calling it the ‘drama triangle’. Three participants take the roles of ‘rescuer’, ‘persecutor’, ‘victim’. I recommend reading How to opt out of the drama triangle.
In my early fifties, I spent years in dismal dismay, scratching around in search of my purpose. Prior to this, I seemed to be caught in the blissful raptural ignorance of youth.
Being fortunate to have a supportive line manager, I took full advantage of personality testing and coaching. Even though the purpose remained elusive, calls to the Universe for insight and inspiration were released.
Significant changes to career, house, and home state proved to be the catalyst of self realisation. The act of job seeking necessitated repetitive review, refinement, and honing of one’s resumé, cover letter, and application. This led to a need to identify the goals of the 30 plus roles, performed to date. The list was prioritised and filtered according to length of tenure. This drew together and consolidated many threads, distilling them into a single purpose.
The result, service to others. I do this by engaging problem solving, creativity, authenticity, and time management skills.
How smug I once was, and will be again, I’m sure. Liking to think I was lithe at forty and poo-pooing physiotherapy. Even when I injured my shoulder, lifting weights for vanity’s sake. Other injuries and increasingly sedentary work roles followed.
Fighting the flab in my fifties almost seems too hard a battle to even try to win. I know investment in my health is required to smooth the passage through my twilight years. I’m still working out when they start.
Ten months into a role in supporting injured workers through their rehabilitation has opened my eyes, personally and professionally, to the miracle work of the physiotherapist.
Most recently, I applaud the weekly direction of an exercise physiologist. Damian is teaching me how to get up off the floor without using my hands. Also, how to exercise again starting with Bird Dog*. I believed my decrepitude, dwindling willpower, and self motivation had reached the point of no return, apparently not. I always perform best when I’m doing something for someone other than myself.
Avoiding the scales during the covid crisis, exercising less, and overindulging has resulted in a weight gain of five kilos. My weigh-in, a personal best of 99 kg, 218 lb or 15st 8lb 5oz, what a pity I’m not 2 metres tall. Humpty Dumpty is my pin up goal, now my waist measures 114cm, almost 45”. A 4XL teeshirt is so comfy these day, especially on a beach with Stan.
Time, they say, will tell how and where this doubting Thomas will end up.
*The Bird Dog is a go-to move for stabilizing and strengthening your shoulders, core, and low back. Well-known for simultaneously engaging the shoulders, abdominals, lower back, gluteal, and thigh muscles.
As an introvert, I internalise thoughts, plans, and visual goals. This melding of components, under extreme pressure, occurs unseen. Beads of perspiration may appear, due mainly to the subtropical climate.
The intuitive part of my personality loves to explore, discover, and try new things. In moments of pure idealism, perfection is obtainable. The reality, dear reader, frequently disappoints.
Being a perceptive, details sometimes elude me. If I read ‘fork’ in relation to finishing a pasty recipe, connections happen in my mind. Fork translates into crimping the pasty, rather than using it to create holes to vent the steam.
The love and emotion that is conjured to aid the creative process is boundless. The onion, carrot, and sweet potato are diced to regulatory perfection. Around a quarter the size of a sweet corn kernel. While the pastry is smooth, short, and even. Is it surprising, when pointed out after exiting the oven, the pastry is strange, the crimping Devonian rather than Cornish and the carrots and sweet potatoes undistinguishable from each other, feelings may explode?
The adult sized ‘Quornish’ pasties were an experiment. Accompanied with vegetarian gravy, deliciously satisfying.
There are people in my life who push my buttons, causing me to question my words and actions. Yesterday for example, the first email of the day was from a work colleague asking for a meeting to discuss myself and my team moving out of our offices. Some of their people would be moving in next week. They appeared in my office, shortly after receiving news that I knew nothing about the relocation. We exchanged points of view in a jovial manner. I offered one of the desks in the area for one of their team members, as a stop gap measure.
A small time later I received another email from them, letting me know that they had no intention of kicking us out. I know that they are not the catalyst, there are more senior powers at work. The communication ended with the following “Sorry for the stressful start to your morning.” What had I done to elicit this statement? I had been reasonable, calm, and accommodating in my discussion with them; in no way stressed.